There’s a new sheriff on North Brooklyn’s open streets.
A collective of neighborhood organizations under the banner of North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition (NBOSCC) have banded together to supervise roadways in Greenpoint and Williamsburg now accessible to pedestrians because of the pandemic.
“Because communities were never given sufficient tools or resources to sustain an initiative like the Open Streets Program, residents have pitched in to do the work,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso in a statement.
Reynoso’s office, along with Council Member Stephen Levin’s, are part of the coalition.
Are you enjoying North Brooklyn’s #openstreets, volunteer to become an ambassador and meet new neighbors!
Help maintain our community’s open spaces for walking, bike riding, jogging, and play!https://t.co/1e26BcMbUs
— North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition (@NBk_OSCC) August 5, 2020
Driggs Avenue and Russell Streets are, according to the Department of Transportation’s website, under the stewardship of the NBOSCC. It has also just laid claim to Berry Street, Grand Street and Nassau Avenue, says Hidalgo.
The NYPD was originally the caretaker of Greenpoint and Williamsburg’s growing catalogue of roads and avenues closed to through traffic. The city tasks “community partners,” or those responsible for monitoring open streets, with setting up wooden sawhorses that block off traffic at 8 a.m., moving them aside at 8 p.m and replacing barriers as they are damaged.
However, there are multiple reports that the police’s stewardship of the city’s open streets has been inconsistent at best.
“The barricades are not brought down. They’re left up over night. They’re not taken out in the morning. They’ve been blown to smithereens by a car going through them” said Kevin LaCherra, an organizer for North Brooklyn Mutual Aid. “They’ve done a pretty poor job of taking care of this.”
Compounding the police’s inconsistent supervision of the city’s open streets are the optics, say activists, of officers doing work community members can do themselves, especially during a national reckoning over police brutality.
“It’s important that this is community-maintained, not police-maintained,” said Elizabeth Adams, a resident of Greenpoint helping out with the coalition. (She’s also the legislative director for Council Member Levin’s office, but she’s working with the NBOSCC as a private citizen.)
Organizations underneath the umbrella of the NBOSCC are collaborating so residents can avoid interactions with the police, echoed Hidalgo.
“What we’re trying to do with all these community partners is essentially to create a bubble to minimize engagement with NYPD,” he said.
As of now, officers still have a role to play in the stewardship of North Brooklyn’s open streets. If residents need barriers to be replaced, they need to reach out to the local precinct.
“The 94 Precinct’s role in maintaining Open Streets since the inception of the program has been the same; to work collaboratively with the community to ensure that the streets are closed and opened in compliance with the program’s mandates,” Kathleen Fahey, the precinct’s Commanding Officer, said in a statement.
And the NYPD still remains the community partner for a variety of streets across North Brooklyn. But once NBOSCC secures enough volunteers, the organization will lay claim to even more thoroughfares in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
“As long there are community members willing and able to do the maintenance of the streets, I don’t see much necessity for police officers,” said Anthony Buissereth, the executive director for North Brooklyn Neighbors.